Architecture Remix

Architecture Remix

By Matthew Keeshin
Hou de Sousa is on a roll with two winning competition entries.

While the summer is often seen as a time to relax, it can also be a productive season. The New York-based studio Hou de Sousa is certainly staying busy. Founders Nancy Hou and Josh de Sousa are now two for two with their winning entries for the Re-Ball! International Design Competition and Folly 2016. 

So what do you with 650,000 plastic balls? That was the question proposed by the Re-Ball! competition. Using the materials left over from the notable installation last summer at The National Building Museum by Snarkitecture's The Beach, their proposal reimagined the spheres into modular units that could be stacked together to create walls or sculptures by visitors. Located at the Dupont Underground in Washington D.C., the installation fills up the site with structures and spaces for visitors to play in. Titled Raise/Raze, the studio saw the project as a real-life version of Minecraft and it was open to the public for the entire month of May this year. 

The units are comprised of 27 spheres. Held together by hot glue, the units can connect to each other by Velcro fasteners at the corners. 

To keep that same level of successful interaction that The Beach had, the studio sought out a system that would be intuitive for the public to use when constructing their own forms. "One thing that we really wanted to keep was the interaction aspect of the previous instillation that the balls were used for," Hou says.  "So we wanted to come up with a system that was flexible and that people could interact with." Looking to molecular structures, Hou de Sousa settled on the cube module as the most flexible unit. 

Through trial and error, the studio had to find the right hot glue to make the cubes durable. A glue best suited for compression from 3M was required for the units that made up the seating while a more standard hot glue was applied in general.  

Detail of a curved wall. 

Floor plan of Raise/Raze. 

The installation successfully filled up the Dupont Underground and transformed it into an imaginative environment. This project shows that people are engaged with architecture at multiple scales and that a versatile space like this can provide a memorable experience. 

The clear roof is made from polycarbonate panels. 

Following up from Raise/RazeSticks opened to the public this summer in July at Socrates Sculpture Park. Organized by the Architectural League of New York and the Park, the theme this year was function and required contestants to think about the needs of the park. Their winning proposal focused on a simple structure that could host the park's educational programs and serve as storage for materials. "It's shelving really, but shelving that's also a showcase at the same time and maybe gives people ideas for what they're working on next," de Sousa says. 

The design works around an existing shipping container and deck. By folding the roof along the edge of the container, Hou de Sousa was able to optimize materials and achieve the desired structural load distribution. 

The main structure is made from cedar.

A diagram reveals the sequence of the design. 

Comparing the two projects, it's easy to see the similarities. Both projects are comprised of simple units and make up systems tailored to their surroundings. While installations may be temporary, these types of projects often have an impact on the people who had the chance to experience them. And Hou de Sousa's clever designs definitely leave a lasting impression. 

Sticks is installed at Socrates Sculpture Park until December 31, 2016. 


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